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5 Brillinar Chromebook Storage Solutions to Banish the Mess - Chromebook HQ

5 Brilliant Chromebook Storage Solutions to Banish the Mess

By How-To, In the ClassroomNo Comments

With the increasing popularity of Chromebooks in the classroom, Chromebook storage solutions and Chromebook charging carts have become important for schools and small businesses. Managing cables, devices, and power hubs can easily lead to an unsightly tangle of wires. No teacher wants to deal with that.

disorganized cables

Photo credit: Pedro Vera https://www.flickr.com/photos/pvera/

Chromebooks have revolutionized IT for classrooms and small businesses. With their functional ease, portability, and low cost, they’ve become a go-to solution for IT managers. One major driver of Google’s success in education is the Google approach to user interface, which Just Works The First Time. When you’re teaching toddlers (or veteran teachers) to use computers, that simplicity goes a long way toward driving enthusiastic adoption.

5 Chromebook Storage and Charging Solutions

Below you’ll find a collection of options for your chromebook charging solutions and chromebook storage needs. There’s a full range of options, from deluxe to totally DIY.

#1 Store Them in One Place

A permanent office / classroom charging cabinet is certainly an option. These models by Luxor [affiliate link] are permanent solutions designed to be hard-wired and mounted in one location. These popular cabinets by lockncharge have capacities ranging from six chromebooks up to forty.

Each cabinet not only stores your Chromebooks – it charges them as well! This is a perfect option for a small business or school library where individuals are checking Chromebooks out one at a time, and they’re not traveling very far.

Some schools require more portability. They would have to lock down a cabinet and then have to dismount it at the end of the school year. Read on for more mobile options.

#2 Put Them on the Road

A rolling chromebook charging solution is the typical solution for most schools. These are usuallchq-charge-cartsy built a bit sturdier, since they have to endure travel. Essentially, these are metal charging cabinets mounted on large casters, designed to roll the hallways of a school or business delivering chromebooks to various locations.

You can easily find chromebook charging carts with capacities up to thirty chromebooks [affiliate link]. However, these can also be expensive. It’s not at all difficult to find a solid charging cart, if you’re ready to throw $1500 at the problem. Some schools have found difficulty here; it’s pretty easy to sell a school board on the necessity of technology, but talking them into spending four figures on rolling cabinets is a trickier proposition. That leads us to our next option.

#3 Hack it Yourself

Next, let’s look at some DIY chromebook cabinets options. These are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the educational sector, as teachers–known for their creativity–are beginning to solve their storage and charging problems on their own.

The Tips and Tricks Teacher Blog has a simple tutorial for making your own chromebook charging cabinet from common supplies and a cheap IKEA cabinet.  The model displayed here holds up to sixteen chromebooks, and it costs significantly less than similar commercial models on Amazon. Two of these babies could hold Chromebooks for a large class.

#4 Build Your Own Cart

If you manage multiple classrooms, you could also make a DIY chromebook rolling cart. It does require some basic carpentry skills and at least a small budget for lumber and supplies. This Instructables link provides detailed instructions on how to make your own, step-by-step.

Or, if your school has an old projector cart and a few camera bags lying around, you could do what this brilliant librarian did to clear the clutter in his space. One public school used a similar approach with a slightly larger media cart and a few plastic totes and boxes.

#5 The “Genius Chromebook Storage” Award

Finally, my favorite: dish racks. That’s right: teachers with limited space and budgets have taken to using simple dish racks as a viable chromebooks storage solution. Economical in terms of both cost and space, this is easily the most ingenious method I’ve seen of managing chromebook storage and charging needs. It’s a solution so simple it actually made me giggle when I saw it.

Those are a few Chromebook storage solutions that should help you regardless of your budget or particular situation.

What’s Your Chromebook Storage Solution?

I’m always on the lookout for innovative uses of chromebooks and ingenious ways to get them into the classroom. If you have a link to a similar project, drop the link in the comments. And remember to share this article so everyone can share the goodness!

How to FTP from Chromebook

By How-ToNo Comments

Why would you need to FTP from your Chromebook? What are the benefits of Chromebook FTP? For that matter, what is FTP? Let’s start there. (Or go to the next heading for the tutorial.)

FTP Background

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, and along with its partner, SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), is a common language computers share. It allows them to send information back and forth. Just as you can’t communicate with a stranger unless you share a common language, computers attempting to “talk” must share a common vocabulary (or “protocol”) to do so.

That’s where FTP and SFTP come in. As the names indicate, the biggest difference between FTP and SFTP has to do with the security of the files in transit. SFTP was developed in the 90s as IT architects sought a more secure method of utilizing FTP principles for transmitting data. This is an essential part of the framework for the entire internet, so it’s sort of a big deal.

Many website designers use FTP to sync up their work on their local computer with the web server.

People who are comfortable on Linux tend to use SSH, but that’s a story for another day.

Common uses of FTP / SFTP include:

  • Transferring large files that aren’t permitted by many email services.
  • Syncing files to your web server or hosting provider.
  • Transferring folders all at once, rather than as individual files.
  • Efficient transfer of large volumes of data from one computer to another (such as music or games).

Chrome FTP Tutorial

To follow this tutorial, you’ll need the following:

  • A Chromebook (obviously)
  • An FTP (or SFTP) server. If you have a hosting provider that allows FTP syncing of your files, you can use that. Find the IP address and your username and password in your hosting company’s control panel. For today, I chose hostedftp.com, which offers a free 21-day trial.
  • An FTP (or SFTP) client on your machine. For today, I chose SFTPClientV2 from the Chrome Web store, which offers 120 free minutes of file transfer to get you started. SFTP File System is a good alternative.

PHASE ONE: Establish a Connection with an FTP Server

We’re going to go through the browser first, since you’re probably most familiar with that. (We could upload our trial file directly from the FTP client, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.)

Go to hostedftp.com and set up a trial personal account. It is free for 21 days, and they won’t ask for a credit card up front.

After your trial account is set up at hostedftp.com, you’ll want to upload a file through the browser. This is the file you’ll later download via FTP during our trial run. That part is simple. Just click the giant “Click here to send files” in the middle of the screen:

Chrome FTP

I chose an image file. It’s a previous version of a logo from my website, and I named the folder “Babalu” simply because it struck my fancy:

Hosted FTP

PHASE TWO: Set Up Your FTP Client on the Computer

  • First, from the Chrome Web Store, download sFTP Client v2. It is free, and offers 120 minutes of free file transfer time up front.
  • It will look like this:

sftp client, chromebook ftp

  • Next, see up top, where it says “Connect”? That’s where you’ll put in the credentials you set up at hostedftp.com. This username and password is what your local computer and the file server in the cloud will use to shake hands, introduce, and agree to swap files and folders back and forth.
  • You’ll need to make sure you have the host FTP address correct. If you log in to your hostedftp.com files page, you’ll see it in the browser bar. For me, it’s us2.hostedftp.com. That is what I type in the field for “Host / IP Address.” (And note that I could also use simply the IP address, if I happened to know that.)
  • You don’t need to worry about port number. That field can be left blank, as FTP typically uses port 21. Because FTP is a standard, your computer already knows this, unless you’re making changes. But if you’re that far ahead, you don’t need this tutorial anyway.

PHASE THREE: Go Get Your File

  • Once I input my credentials and the computer connects with the server, I get this screen:

sftp client tutorial

  • On the left you have the “Local Folder,” which is the folder I’ve chosen to receive and send from on my machine. On the right you see “Remote,” which is the folder we created at the FTP server. You see my “Babalu” folder sitting right there? Our trial file is right there, waiting for us.

FTP Files

  • Now that I’ve clicked “Babalu,” you can see the file icon and “new…log…” on the right. And as you can see, when I clicked there, it downloaded to my Local Folder on the left side.
  • Note that it works both ways: if I select something from my Local Folder on the left side, I can send it via upload to my FTP server on the right side. Try it, and you’ll see.
  • Remember, you’re using a cloud-based service, so by definition anything you send isn’t staying on your device. (To keep all your data in your hands, you’d need to configure a computer you own as a personal FTP server, which is a complex topic for another day.)

You Know How to Use Chromebook FTP!

If all you’re after is a simple way to access large files from anywhere, sending them from Chrome using FTP would accomplish that goal. If you needed to make those files available to others, you could add contacts under the “Contacts” tab at hostedftp.com, and anyone with appropriate credentials could access those same files.

Did you enjoy the tutorial? I hope so. I find FTP to be a great way to work around the attachment size limits of my email service (particularly for large music files).

Be sure to ask any questions in the comments. Take the opportunity to tell us about an alternative FTP server or client. There are multiple options for each, so be sure to chime in and tell the audience which you use and why.

Parental controls for chromebook

Do Chromebooks Have Parental Controls?

By How-To, In the ClassroomNo Comments

As a parent, do you face the constant question of how much online supervision your kids need? On one hand, I recognize that learning to use tech effectively and independently is crucial to their future. On the other hand, it’s pretty terrifying to consider all the ways their devices could expose them to corners of the internet I’d prefer they not see. Thankfully, a suite of Chromebook parental controls and third-party apps makes the task of protecting your kids online seamless and simple. Let’s walk through how to set it up.

See why Chromebooks are the best laptops for kids.

Chromebook Parental Controls: Drop-Dead Simple

Like everything Google makes, Chromebooks just work, simply and efficiently. And because everything on a Chromebook flows through the Chrome browser, it’s simple to manage.  However, there is one very important note up front: for any of this to work, you’ll need to make sure you turn off “Allow Guest Browsing” on your Chromebooks. Otherwise, anyone can sit down and use the guest account to avoid logging in, which defeats the whole purpose.

Set up Kids as “Supervised Users”

Now, you’ll need to register the Chromebook with a parent’s email address. This will establish them as the administrator for all family accounts. From there, adding accounts for kids is simple. Each child should be set up as a “supervised user” underneath the parent’s account. This enables the master account (the parent) to control the child’s access and review what they’ve been up to on the Chromebook.  

This video will guide you through setting up supervised users. 

Two notes: first, make sure you are aware that supervised users can see the administrator’s bookmarks and favorites in the browser, unless you take advantage of the “Exit and Childlock” option when logging out of your account each time. Google has provided a step-by-step guide.

Second, be aware that supervised accounts operate underneath the master account’s email address, which means they won’t have an email address of their own, and they won’t be able to create Google Documents, Sheets, or Slides under an individual account; everything will get dumped into the supervisor’s account.

Review Online Activity

Supervised users are unable to delete their browsing history; this means the parent always has the capability to review exactly what’s been done online – no worries about a child trying to cover their tracks after the fact. This is an especially valuable tool as kids get older and more curious.

Restrict Access to Explicit Content

Parents can allow or block any website for any supervised user. Additionally, supervised users can be configured to only browse the internet using Safesearch, a Google tool which prevents explicit text or images from showing up in search results.  

You can also set up parental control on YouTube videos.

Prevent Installation of Apps

Supervised users cannot install apps to their account; they are limited to browsing the web, which means if they need to create a document for school, they’ll have to browse to the Google Docs online site rather than using the device’s native app.

Potential Issues with Chromebook Parental Controls

Safesearch seems to be too aggressive, blocking a great deal of content that older students might need for school; however, if it’s turned off, you obviously don’t have time to individually blacklist every questionable website one-by-one. Some parents dodge this issue by choosing instead to only allow certain sites, handpicking the portions of the internet their child can access.  

Additionally, supervised users can’t install Google apps to their account at all. This means that any apps your child may need for school will have to be loaded onto the parental account, and the child will have to log in through your account to use the app, which is obviously a complicated solution.

Third-Party Solutions

If you prefer not to set up a supervised account, but you would like to control specific aspects of your child’s Internet use on the Chromebook, there are some apps to help. They are available on the Chrome web store.

These third-party solutions provide cloud filtering for all users on the Chromebook, supervised user or not. Multiple third-party services such as Mobicip, Metacert, and Blocksi are now available as alternatives to the pre-loaded Chromebook parental controls.

Blocksi Web Filter: This extension has both free and paid versions. The free version includes a host of features like:

  • Web filtering across 79 rated categories (adult, security, malware, etc.) and 45 million rated websites
  • YouTube content filtering across 20 categories
  • YouTube channel filtering
  • Black & White Lists
  • Limited time use, for e.g. homework access

Blocksi Lite: This extension blocks adult content and access to porn website

Parental Control and Web Filter from Metacert: This extension offers multiple settings for both, adults and children. Options for children include:

  • Filters and blocks search results that are inappropriate for a young audience
  • Removes XXX images and videos from search results
  • Blocks Tumblr pages with adult content
  • Blocks Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts with adult content

In addition to this setting, the Metacert filter offers a setting for very young kids that allows parents to add specific websites and create white lists for safe and controlled browsing.

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that you can install to keep your teen on task, especially if you want to allow limited access to social media and other websites without completely restricting access. This extension allows you to set a time limit for websites you choose. Once the limit has been exhausted, StayFocusd restricts access for the rest of the day.

Conclusion: Chromebook Parental Controls Are There, But Not Perfect Yet

It’s not clear yet if Google will improve the native parental controls on their Chromebook products. They might simply allow the third-party app market to solve it for them. In either event, my family’s experience with Chromebooks has been phenomenal. For very young children, Safesearch is sufficient to keep them protected while they do young-child things: watch videos, play silly games, and visit educational sites. For older kids, we rely on Blocksi to handle our cloud filtering, so we don’t have to lean on Safesearch.

In my family, the benefits far outweigh the concerns, primarily due to the low cost and the portability of accounts. When my daughter pours orange juice all over the Chromebook, nothing is lost except the minimal cost of the device. The entire family’s data is sitting there when we log in to the replacement device.  

Questions or comments about Chromebook parental controls? Speak up below!

Do you need antivirus for Chromebook?

By How-To, News8 Comments

Have you ever gotten a computer virus or known someone who has? If so, you know how annoying and time consuming it is to deal with. If you’re considering making the switch to Chrome OS or if you just picked up your first Chromebook, you may be wondering: Do Chromebooks get viruses?

We’ve been trained by Microsoft to install antivirus software because Windows gets infected. But there are no viruses for Chrome OS, which means you don’t need antivirus for Chromebook, Chromebox or Chromebase. That doesn’t mean nothing bad can happen on Chrome OS, but we’ll get into that later.

Why doesn’t Chrome OS need antivirus?

For Chrome OS, Google decided to design a secure system from the very start.  That means they coded the operating system to protect itself from exploitation.

The most important security feature of Chrome OS is process isolation. Bad actors want to exploit a web page you are visiting, and then jump to access another tab where you have sensitive information for them to plunder. With process isolation, even if they can compromise one tab, they can’t see what else is on your computer.

The biggest online security worries for your personal laptop today are:

  • viruses that steal your information and slow you down,
  • botnet malware that makes your computer a zombie and then slows it down,
  • and ransomeware that kills your files.

Chrome OS doesn’t get viruses, malware or ransomware because it doesn’t let them download or run. If ransomware did exist for Chrome OS, the damage would be minimal anyway. Most of your files will be stored in the cloud where the ransomware wouldn’t be able to touch them.

This 15 minute video goes into more detail about Chrome OS protections and why you don’t need antivirus.

The game has changed – it’s no longer just about viruses

Don’t throw all caution to the wind just yet though. Spam email and phishing emails are still a concern on any computer. If you click on a link from an email and then type in your username and password onto a phishing site, you’ve still given away your password.

The other risk with any browser (not just Chrome) is malicious extensions or plugins. Unscrupulous developers collect and sell information about websites you visit.

Don’t just install Chrome extensions indiscriminately. Check if it’s from a reputable source, and check what permissions the extension requires.

 

Screen Shot of Chrome Extension Permissions

Navigate to chrome://extensions/ in the browser, and click the Permissions link to check your installed extensions.

Be wary of extension that can read all webpages and alter data on the page. If the extension needs rights like that, investigate the developer a little, and read the reviews.

When something looks wrong

OK, that’s all great, but what if something doesn’t look right? What if your Chrome device is slow, or you’re getting weird pop-ups? If that happens, it’s not a virus – it’s probably a malicious extension. James Welbes over at Chromebook Guide has written a great article about what to do.

What you can do to keep your information safe

So your Chrome device isn’t going to get a virus. Still, you should still take precautions against having your account information stolen.

  • If your bank allows it, use Chrome incognito mode when doing online banking. This can help because it disables your extensions by default.
  • Make strong passwords, and use a different password for every site. Here’s some great guidance on how to do that, and some tools to help from Cloudwards: How to Set Up a Strong Password.
  • Never open spam emails, and avoid clicking links in emails.

I’ll leave you with some online safety tips that work on every operating system. The folks at Stay Safe Online have actionable information to protect your computer and your personal information: Keep a Clean Machine and Protect Your Personal Information.